Obi Mukabiko, our safari guide in South Luangwa Zambia, said to me, “What Pack for a Purpose is doing is different. We have many volunteers from The US who come to help us. They always teach our fishermen a different way to fish. The fishermen do it until the volunteers leave, and then they go back to the way they were fishing before. You are asking us what we need. It’s a big difference.”
I offered my full support when my wife, Rebecca, created Pack for a Purpose. This included being a part of the Board. Assisting others is an essential part of how I want to live. I believe asking others what help they need is almost always the best way to start assisting them.
Rebecca and I started packing for a purpose before there was a Pack for a Purpose. We fell in love with traveling in Africa after our first trip to Botswana in 2000. When we were booking our second trip to Botswana in 2002 with Wilderness Safaris, Rebecca noticed visiting a school as a possible activity. She compared our luggage allowance on our international flights to the internal flights on safari in Botswana. She realized we had an opportunity to use our luggage to bring supplies to the school in Botswana.
Rebecca contacted Wilderness Safaris and asked them to find out what the school needed. Wilderness Safaris reached out to the school, forwarded the list of supplies to Rebecca, and agreed to move the supplies by their internal channels from Johannesburg, South Africa, to the Mbele school in Kasane, Botswana. The basic model of Pack for a Purpose was in place.
The visit to the school was eye-opening. When the Headmistress of the school found the rulers we had packed, she was almost in tears. Even though the school building was a well-made physical facility, she told us the school didn’t have any rulers. When we drove up to the school, we saw the children playing soccer with a ball of rags wrapped in plastic. The school head inflated one of the soccer balls we had packed, and the children were allowed to start a game. We realized how much of a positive impact our contribution had made and how many lives we had touched. We also learned how much we benefitted from the experience of extending our generosity to the people who lived in the community we visited.
The conversation I had with Obi happened in Mfue Zambia in 2013 after we had formally created Pack for a Purpose. We first met Obi as our guide on a trip to Zambia in 2011. When we returned to the area in 2013, Obi visited us for an evening and commented about how Pack for a Purpose is different. He had heard about a community event that happened earlier in the day. One of the projects supported by the community was an afternoon conservation club that used music as a vehicle to teach local children and teenagers about environmental issues. Two local musicians, Bush Doctor and 50 Sugah, helped create a list of simple musical instruments they could use with the children.
As Pack for a Purpose travelers, Rebecca and I collected the instruments with Rebecca’s cousin’s 14-year-old son, Noah, who was traveling with us. Noah helped us pack the instruments so we could take them in our luggage to Lusaka, Zambia. ProFlight Zambia flew them to Mfue. The local PfaP participant got the musical instruments to the Conservation Club. Bush doctor and 50 Sugah held an outdoor afternoon jam session where the children in the conservation club used them to make music while learning about the problems caused by poaching and taking wood from the National Park to make charcoal. Noah, an aspiring musician, played his ukulele. The event was the talk of the town.
Rebecca and I make Packing for a Purpose a part of every trip we take. We have Packed for a Purpose in the Turks and Caicos, Curacao, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, and Kenya. There’s a story for every trip.
Participating in PfaP has confirmed my belief that generosity of spirit and the desire to help others are deeply seated human characteristics. Through Pack for a Purpose, I have met fabulous people from all over the world who are working to make their communities better. The interns who have worked on Pack for a Purpose have kept me in touch with young people and university students who are deeply committed to serving others. Our volunteers and Board Members have generously shared their time and talents. Though they are diverse in so many ways, everyone who has participated in Pack for a Purpose has demonstrated a level of commitment and generosity which is inspirational.
I was once at a conference where a journalist commented that though he would like to write more positive stories, he couldn’t find them. My thought was, I’ll show you a website with at least 460.